Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Russia must remove its “illegal embassies” from two occupied regions before diplomatic relations, which he severed after a 2008 war, can be restored.
President Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday that Russia is “absolutely ready” to restore ties. He cited the partial resumption of direct flights between the two former Soviet republics as evidence of improved relations.
“It’s not clear what Russia means when they say they’re ready to restore ties with Georgia,” Saakashvili’s spokeswoman Manana Manjgaladze told reporters in the capital Tbilisi today. “Do they mean Georgia as a whole, as it’s recognized by the international community? Or Georgia without the regions Russia occupied? We won’t restore ties with Russia until the illegal embassies in the two occupied regions are closed.”
Russia routed Georgia’s army in a five-day war in August 2008 over the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, later recognizing its independence as well as that of Abkhazia, another separatist region. Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia on Sept. 2 of that year.
Medvedev yesterday also said that since Russia has been accepted into the World Trade Organization, a “more energetic exchange of goods” will follow with Georgia.
Russia banned imports of Georgian wine and mineral water in March 2006, claiming the beverages were unfit for consumption. The embargo was expanded in October 2006, when Russia cut road, rail, air and sea links with Georgia, halted postal service and blocked money transfers.
Medvedev also reiterated his refusal to meet or even speak with Saakashvili, whom he blames for starting the 2008 conflict. The Russian leader said he would welcome closer ties. “There’s only one person I won’t deal with,” he said. “You know whom I’m talking about.”
Manjgaladze dismissed Medvedev’s implication that Saakashvili is standing in the way of a rapprochement.
“The problem is not in Saakashvili,” she said. “The problem concerns Georgia as a whole, including its population and those thousands who were expelled from their land.”
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